By Henry Umoru
ABUJA — THE leadership of the National Assembly, yesterday, took a swipe at the way the Social Investment Programme, SIP, of the Federal Government was being implemented, noting that its operations were not guided by law.
Both the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and other officers of the upper and lower chambers called on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency, put in place an enabling legislation for the programme in line with global best practices.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila did not hide their reservations when they stressed that the Social Investment Programme which was established in 2016 under the Presidency, but which is now under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs needed a reform to make it more efficient and effective.
The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives lampooned the scheme at a meeting held with the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Farouq and some top officials of the ministry.
The meeting was convened by the leadership of the National Assembly against the backdrop of the ongoing government intervention initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, COVID- 19 on the most vulnerable Nigerians.
The meeting was also attended by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase and some other principal officers and members from both Chambers.
In his opening remarks, Lawan said, “When for example, some conditions are set that those who will benefit will have to go online, through the internet or BVN and the rest of it.
“I want to tell you that the majority of those who are supposed to benefit have no access to power. They have no access to Internet. They have no bank account, so no BVN.
“Now with Coronavirus, they need our attention more than ever before. The time has come that we review the ways and manner we deliver the services under the SIP to Nigerians.”
Corroborating the President of the Senate, Gbajabiamila, who told the minister that she was right now in the eye of the storm because all eyes are on her, said, “Your job right now, is probably the most important as we speak, because you are saddled with the responsibility of alleviating ‘poverty’ or the hardship, due to no fault of anyone, being thrust upon Nigerians, and I know that you came into a system, or you met a system that has nothing to do with you, but what we will be asking you to do is for you to change that system.”
The Speaker said the relevant Committees in the House have been complaining bitterly even before the Minister took over the scheme about inability to access information about the scheme.
Gbajabiamila said Nigeria’s SIP is similar to the Unemployment Insurance Act in the UK and the Social Security Act in the US.
“There is a lot of take away from this COVID-19. One of them is the International Best Practices. My point is that these things are backed by law. They are codified by the legislature so that these issues and these questions will not arise.”